Someone Else’s Urgent
Most of the time the work that we do that we define as ‘urgent’ is somebody else’s urgent.
Over the last 25 years my wife’s Uncle has become a great friend of fine but also a huge inspiration and mentor in my business life but also my family life as a role model for parenting.
Shaun was a chemistry Teacher who became a secondary school Head Teacher who then moved from the industry to become a Chief Executive. He has ridden the ups and downs of leadership life for years but overall has been hugely successful.
Shaun will tell you a story that when he was Head Teacher he would work in term time doing masses of hours on a tight schedule helping to develop and improve the school for the children.
He took all the school holidays off to be with his own 4 children (one of whom now managers The Campbell Academy!). Shaun would return to the school during the summer six week holidays for only 2 days, GCSE and A-level result days.
When he would return for the first of those days, which was always the GCSE results day, his secretary would be purple in the face and jumping up and down for the huge and urgent tasks that had to be done that day which were lying on Shaun’s desk. Shaun would refuse to look at any task as he was only there for the children who were receiving their results and he would then go.
When he returned back for the A-level results a week later the state of the secretary would be even worse. Shaun would tell you that she would be almost foaming at the mouth with the urgency of the tasks that had to be carried out which were lying on his desk because he had now been away from school basically for 4 weeks.
The funny thing is though, that the tasks that were urgent on the second occasion of him being at the school were not the same tasks which were urgent on the first occasion.
Urgent, and particularly other people’s urgent, has a habit of disappearing after the deadline as the next crisis comes into view which requires attention.
There is no question that all of us manage a life which seems to be full of a constant stream of urgent and immediate tasks, at times it seems hard to avoid them as the overwhelm of the task list weighs down heavily.
That is ok if that is the way you choose to live your life, but it’s probably best to define urgent on your terms and not someone else’s.
Blog post number: 1642